Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Richmond Shakespeare Theatre's 2006-2007 Season!

Explosions! Fireworks!

This is it! Our second downtown season, performing in the Chapel at Second Presbyterian Church at the corner of 5th and Main, one block away from both Penny Lane Pub and Capitol Alehouse! And with free attached parking, to boot! Wow, what a great location!
  • JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare. October 5-28, 2006.
  • A CHRISTMAS CAROL for Two Actors by Charles Dickens. November 30-December 23, 2006.
  • DOCTOR FAUSTUS by Christopher Marlowe, adapted for two actors by Jeffrey Watkins. February 1-24, 2007.
  • TWELFTH NIGHT by William Shakespeare. March-April, 2007.
I have the honor of acting in Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night, as well as directing Doctor Faustus. Coming on the heels of Othello, it seems that I'm the company's go-to guy for plays involving evil and demons.

Auditions for the season are coming up on Monday and Tuesday, August 7 and 8. If you're in Richmond, and you're an actor, please come on out and read for me! Details on our website!

Five Albums I'm Listening To Lately v2.0

Not much time, so I'll just drop a list. This is still being affected by the long and tedious minidisc-to-CD transfer. Feel free to respond with your comments, or perhaps five albums you're listening to right now.
  • John Coltrane - Blue Train. Because I've been listening to Kind of Blue a bit too much and I'm starting to feel one-jazz-dimensional.
  • Cypress Hill - Black Sunday. I really need to get Cypress' debut album and Funkdoobiest's Which Doobie U B badly. I only have both albums on (gasp) cassette!
  • Mr. Mister - Welcome to the Real World. Not just for "Kyrie" and "Broken Wings," but actually for the opening tracks, "Black / White" and "Uniform of Youth." Man, what a great album. What great songwriting. A funny note: Grant Mudge, my Artistic Director a Richmond Shakespeare, came in asking me if I remembered the song from the 80s with the chorus "Carry a laser down the road that I must travel." I immediately pulled up the MP3 on my computer and schooled him.
  • King Crimson - THRAK. I'm thinking of using a lot of Crim instrumentals as the score for Doctor Faustus this winter, and THRAK, Thrakattak, and The Power to Believe are great source material. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost my minidisc of The ConstruKction of Light along with my good portable MD recorder! I'm sure they're in a box in the attic, but with temperatures approaching 100 three or four days this week I ain't going up there.
  • Lyle Lovett - Pontiac. I've known about Lyle for a while, but I'm just starting to really soak it in.

So that's that. Coming up... The official announcement of Richmond Shakespeare's 2006-2007 Downtown Season! (Hint: It has Doctor Faustus in it!)

Toothache update!

Well, the X-ray last Thursday showed nothing wrong.


Seriously, what the %$&#.

I have another appointment (my regularly-scheduled cleaning) on Wednesday of this week, and we're going to look at it again. I haven't been in debilitating pain for a week, just an occasional dull nagging (like right now, unfortunately). The amoxicillin took care of whatever the infection was, and now it only really bothers me when I chew on it, and even then not very much. I'm not having a healthy tooth drilled into if it was just a freak infection.

Interestingly, the problem (or lack of problem) seems to be the tooth in front of the one I thought was a problem. Dr. Garfield says that nerve can trick you...

Sorry I don't have anything more interesting to post right now, but a lot of people have been asking about the tooth, so I thought I'd post an update.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hell is a Toothache

At the gates of heaven, they hand you a harp. At the gates of hell, they give you a toothache.

Trust me on this. As Richmond Shakespeare's resident specialist on all things evil, demonic, and hell-bound, I know. Why does Iago destroy Othello? It's not jealousy or racism, he's just annoyed because he needs an emergency root canal. Faustus is damned for his pride to having a toothache for eternity.

I am in day four of a very sudden and severe toothache in a lower right back molar, and I have never been more miserable in my life. I would take the worst migraine of my life over this. I would have another cracked rib and back spasms. I would have Bart Grantham over to visit.

Were it not for Tylenol 3 with Codeine I would pull my own head off right now, I promise you.

I'm seeing my dentist tomorrow for an emergency whatever we need to do. I'm anticipating another root canal. Oh joy. That'll be three in three years. Why'd I have to inherit my mother's soft teeth?

The only advantage is this: When I go to the RAPT (Richmond Association of Professional Theatres) meeting Monday night after my dentist's appointment, I can explain myself, C.J. Cregg-style by saying "I had woot canal!"

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pet Peeve #3587

I hate the word "actress."

You don't call a female doctor a "doctress," or a female professor a "professoress," do you? A female actor is an actor. She acts.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I Dream of Toys...

When I was a kid, I used to dream about toys I wanted.

Now I don't dream very often, or at least I don't often awaken remembering my dreams. This has always annoyed the heck out of me, especially when people talk about their very active dream lives. No fewer than two people in the past three weeks have told me I was in their dreams. Thanks for rubbing it in.

So when I do have a dream I remember, it's like a special event. In fact, I still have some birthday cake left over from Saturday. Perhaps I'll have myself some.

Being a fairly practical person, my dreams weren't just about playing with toys, or about being in a room full of toys. My dreams were about buying toys for myself. The dream would go something like this: I'm in Toys R Us and there's a huge sale of some kind. So huge, in fact, that the most amazing Transformers, G.I. Joes, and/or Lego sets are being sold for pennies on the dollar. I fill my cart with the toys of my dreams, confident that while I'm not wealthy, my $20 will buy hundreds of dollars worth of toys!

Then I would wake up, and Christmas changes into Arbor Day. The sadness would be crushing in the wake of such a subconscious bait-and-switch; in that odd place between sleep and waking it really felt like something beautiful had been taken away from me unfairly.

Last night, I dreamt that Karen and I were house-hunting, something which has never actually happened in the real world. We came across a charming house in a hilly neighborhood, and when we went inside, the house seemed to expand, TARDIS-like into far more space than it appeared to have on the outside. Room after room opened up to us; a huge jacuzzi tub in the master bath, a well-wired space for my studio, and a living room perfect for home theatre. Every room was more spacious and beautiful than the last, but it wasn't at all unrealistic or dreamlike. The price of this gigantic space: a modest $180,000. We could afford this house!

Then I woke up. It seemed so real that I was absolutely crushed for a few seconds, like someone had ripped out a chunk of my heart.

Transformers and now houses. I guess I must be growing up, huh?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Headshot Adventures With Maguire Neblett!

Saturday was my birthday, and Karen and I took advantage of the rare occasion of both of us having the same day off to get new headshots taken.

Now, to give you some perspective, my old headshots are old. Like, Jurassic-era headshots; 10 years old in a business where you should really update every 2-3 years. For comparison:
Wow, look at all the hair I had!

Eric Dobbs did these for me. They did the job, and certainly paid for themselves in the work I got using them, but the style is dated, and I'm not just talking about my floppy hair.

While at VCU, I saw a lot of Seniors coming in with contact sheets from local photographers. Time and time again, the ones that stood out were taken by Maguire Neblett. So we looked her up online to find, lo and behold: the Starving Artist Special! Two people share a roll of film, $175 each for 19 shots.Well that sounded just about perfect for Karen and me, so we took advantage of a cancellation in her schedule and went to her downtown studio. And I have to say that it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my professional career.
Maguire is charming, casual, and hilarious from start to finish. In every possible way, we got more than we'd bargained for. The final result: an afternoon of real fun capped with three spectacular headshots each. After the photo sessions, we sat at her camera, selected our favorite three, and watched her clean them up with a few masterful mouse clicks.

(I'm not going to post Karen's, even though they're spectacular. She really came alive once Maguire turned on the fan.)

According to the wisdom of Maguire Neblett, headshots should make the viewer want to meet the person in the photo. Judge for yourself.
So here's my new primary theatrical headshot. What a handsome devil, even without all the hair. Big improvement over last decade's, eh? And I'm not just talking about the photo.

Maguire described "sexy" looks as one of three varieties. If I may paraphrase:

1. You want me.

2. I want you.
3. I just had you, and I'm feeling pretty smug about it.
The third variety is not as desirable as the other two.
This qualifies, I think, as a bit of the second variety. More importantly, I want to meet this guy. Of course, he's me, so that's not hard to pull off. I meet myself several times a day.

Hm. That didn't come out in quite the way I wanted it to.
Maguire said this picture made me look like Robert Redford. She also described my looks as "rugged." As far as I could tell, she was only drinking Diet Coke.
This is my film & television shot. I don't have a small version of the color one yet (my JPEG editing software is as old as my old headshots), but I'm really happy with it. So happy, in fact, that I'm using it as my "My Picture" here at blogspot.
She claimed this picture made me look like Warren Beatty. Cynde says she sees it in the eyes. I see it nowhere. I like the shine on the shoulder of the leather jacket.

This one I'm actually getting reproduced in color.
There is also a third picture, one in the same pose as the first one, but with me smiling. I loathe my huge, gummy smile, so I won't be using it or posing it. It's only for casting directors who ask for a picture of me smiling. I can email it upon request. (To casting agents, not to random readers.)

I have a thing for off-center framing, if you hadn't noticed.

We left Maguire's studio with a CD-ROM full of goodness: all the raw JPEG files from her camera (a few more than the promised 19 each), three high-resolution TIF files for mass-duplication, smaller TIFs with our names for home printing, and smaller JPEGs with our names for email submission. The complete package, for $175 each. Dag, yo!

The bottom line is this: Andrew Hamm: Postmodern Renaissance Man Incorporated wholeheartedly endorses Maguire Neblett Photography. If you're in Richmond, or really within a few hours' drive, I wholeheartedly recommend her service. Karen and I are completely thrilled.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

100-Word Review: "Superman Returns"

We now return to our regularly-scheduled programming of movie reviews so truncated as to be virtually useless. Brought to you by the Westinghouse Corporation and the financial support of viewers like you.

Superman Returns
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, and the ghost of Marlon Brando.
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, and Bryan Singer
Released by: Warner Bros.
Theatrical Release Date: 6/28/2006
Run Time: 157 min.
Rating: PG-13

Spoiler warning! Do not read if you haven’t seen the movie!

John Williams score + space whooshing credits = instant tears of joy. More tears four or five times after. Pure joy. Superman is back. I had forgotten how much we need him.

Brandon Routh. Just as perfect as Christopher Reeve. Kate Bosworth is… not as perfect as Margot Kidder. She looks and acts too ingénue.

The Brando footage also brought tears.

Finally, Lex Luthor is evil instead of buffoonish. Stick it to ‘im, Kevin!

Much of it looks very X-Men—in a good way. But Superman with a child out of wedlock??? Wrong idea, Bryan.

Great foundation for Superman VI.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Few Thoughts on Theatre Etiquette

Four very successful performances of The Taming of the Shrew were punctuated by a few not-so-successful audience members last weekend. A couple of specific instances prompted this writing.

On Thursday night, a father and mother brought their two-year-old son to see the show. They sat on an aisle only a few rows from the stage. The boy chattered and wiggled incessantly throughout the first act, barely contained by his father. The mother was not much of an example, answering her phone no fewer than six times during the show. To her credit(?), she had the decency to mutter "I'm at a show" and walk out of the theatre to continue her conversations, but one wonders why she couldn't have turned her phone off when the house manager instructed everyone to do so before we started.

Please don't mistake this for an anti-kids-at-serious-theatre rant. I love children in the audience, and often play my asides directly to them. And there's enough slapstick and silliness in this production of Shrew that children are often laughing the loudest midway through the second act.

But wiggly-boy was so disruptive to both players and audience that one actor felt compelled to direct his every line about someone being silent at the offending child and father. The father, first oblivious then mortally offended, was heard complaining on his way out after the show that "it isn't a crime to bring a two-year-old to the theatre."

Well, maybe it isn't a crime in this place and era. But it is without doubt an appalling lack of any kind of judgment, indescribably thoughtless and inexcusably selfish. Perhaps a refresher course is in order. I have arranged my thoughts in bullet points to facilitate efficacious learning! The "We" referred to is the cast of any stage performance.

  • We are not TV. We can hear your two-year-old; the acoustics in theatre spaces are very good. We can hear your phone ring, we can hear your candy wrapper, and we can hear your conversation. We are trying very hard to put on a great show for you, and your two-year-old is making it much more difficult. Why not take him out to run around in the gardens for a while until he calms down?
  • The theatre is not your living room. The other audience members are even closer to your child than we are, and they are almost certainly even more disrupted. It could be argued that the fact that they paid money to see the show is even more compelling reason than actor-disruption for you to leave your child at home. Or at least to take him out to run around in the gardens for a while until he calms down.
  • We are in the middle of our job. You know that big presentation you had last month? We have that too, but it's presented four to six nights a week. What would your presentation have been like with a two-year-old babbling and shrieking in the corner of the board room? What would your everyday work be like with said child running up and down the halls of your office?
  • Shakespeare is not really the best entertainment for two-year-olds. Yes, I know that Shakespeare is universally acknowledged as the greatest dramatist of all time, I know that his plays endure because they appeal to all kinds of people, and I know that he is credited with "the invention of the modern human being." But I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that no two-year-old ever born on this Earth is going to appreciate that. Perhaps you should consider other entertainments for the next two or three years. Like a babysitter.
  • Turn off your phone. Not vibrate, not "mosquito"-ring. Off. OFF. This is not negotiable.

Look, I am glad to see every single face in the audience, I truly am. I am incredibly grateful to God and country that I get to do this for a living, and the audience is what makes that possible. But theatre etiquette is not some antiquated idea, it's a set of behaviors existing to make the experience more meaningful for you, the audience. Just please, please remember that there are real people up on that stage and in the seats around you, and that what you and your children do affects them.